I am still procrastinating on that Disneyland wrap-up. (I tweaked my back a bit on one of the rides. One of the nice things about having a real office is that you can close the door and lie down for a few minutes — not that you can’t if you just have a cubical, but it reduces the amount of ribald commentary of passers-by).
On construction and “educational” toys (mostly in age-of-use order):
Lincoln Logs: Meh. They don’t stick together; you can’t do much engineering. And the roofing structures were terrible.
Wooden Blocks: Surprising lasting power. Useful with Lego.
Tinker-Toys: Better than L-Logs, and fun for making airy things that could go quite high off the floor, but ultimately not up to any kind of durable widget-making.
Thing-Maker: Plastic “goop” which you poured into molds and baked for a while in the provided oven. You could make bugs (pretty decent ones) and inferior army men. There was glow-in-the-dark goop available, which was pretty neat.
Erector sets: Pretty decent; taught me a lot about bolts and stuff. I never had any of the electric stuff (motors, etc.), so most of my constructions were pretty static. My set rusted pretty easily.
Lego: Oh, don’t get me started. My sister has a ton of this, and is ready to air-drop it on us when we decide our son is ready. Read that, when we decide that we can deal with thousands of small parts spread throughout the house.
Etch-a-Sketch: Frustrating. I was never able to reliably remember the twist directions for up/down and left/right, and most of my pictures had little “mistake tails”. Really, really wanted to be able to correct mistakes.
Spyrograph: Fun for a while, until you figure out what’s going on. As Doug Crockford said once, “Never twice the same, never once very much different.”
Loom: We had a small loom that was great fun up until the point where you had to re-thread it, whereupon my gumption usually ran out. Took several hours to set up again. We made yards and yards of six-inch-wide cloth, mostly decorative.
Rock tumbler: Plastic barrel that you dumped stones and various sizes of grit into; the barrel went onto a motor-powered rack that tumbled the stones for days and weeks. We still have some of the stones we made, they were quite pretty.
Estes rockets: I built a bunch of these (probably starting when I was ten). I understand there are lots of communities where you can’t fly model rockets any more. What a shame.
Microscope: My Dad’s old microscope from his college days, which he let us use from time to time.
Chemistry Set: You can still get decent sets (see United Nuclear’s site, for instance). I made a lot of additions of my own here, some of which were probably not that wise.
Black and white photography: Did a bunch of this, first with Dad’s help, then on my own, buying film, paper and chemicals in bulk. Fun, and worth knowing how to do. I miss 120mm film.
Electronics: Years of soldering, bread-boarding and freeing the smoke from small, expensive (to me) components.
Computers: Where everything pretty much stopped. 🙂
It’s amusing that my last “toy” (built in High School) is very nearly one of our son’s first toys.